We can now get our own personal drones for a few hundred bucks, and I guess they're -- um -- flying off the shelves this Christmas season. This is -- understandably -- raising safety concerns:
"Many of these operators have no aviation history, background or knowledge," Margaret Gilligan, FAA's associate administrator for safety, told a recent forum hosted by the Air Line Pilots Association. "They think they just bought something fun that they just want to fly around. They don't for a moment think, 'I'm entering the national airspace system.' "
Such operators don't intend to interfere with manned aircraft, but "they just don't know what they don't know," she said.
In response to safety concerns, Amazon created a special webpage on it's website with safety information for drone customers. Many small drones can only fly as high as a few hundred feet, which keeps them below most manned aircraft. But some drones on the market are capable of reaching altitudes as high as 18,000 feet — the start of "class A" airspace where most passenger and cargo airlines cruise.
Ben Berman, an airline captain who flies Boeing 737s, told the same forum that "the current situation is out of control."
I've been thinking lately it would be pretty cool to have a drone. For one thing, it could hover just above my house and work as a pretty effective home surveillance system. And the idea of incorporating aerial footage in my homemade movies is so enticing. But why in the world would I -- or anybody, for that matter -- want to send one up 18,000 feet? To do what? Even if I wanted to spy on you (oops, said too much), I don't think I'd have to send it much above treetop level. What am I gonna do, knock Rocky the Flying Squirrel out of the air?